Breaking down each Round of 16 match-up

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16 teams have gone home and now the last 16 remain to battle it out on Brazil.

On Saturday the Round of 16 kicks off as eight matches will take place to usher in the knockout stages. We have some absolute beauties coming your way as three CONCACAF, five South American, two African and six European teams continue their quests to win it all.

[ RELATED: Full schedule for last 16 matches ]

As Jurgen Klinsmann said after the USA sealed their qualification to the knockout round “this is now the start of a whole new tournament.”

Lets take a quick gander at all eight mouth-watering ties and see what we can expect. The full-size bracket can be seen at the bottom of the post.

[ RELATED: Complete bracket for Round of 16, more ]

Round of 16 matches

Brazil vs. Chile – Saturday, 28 June, 12 p.m. ET, Belo Horizonte

The hosts take on one of South America’s most likeable sides in a real humdinger. Brazil’s attacking flair will be made to work extremely hard by a Chilean side that love to pressure high. There will be thousands of Chileans in the crowd to create a superb atmosphere and this is where the hosts could come unstuck. Can Neymar be the hero or will Arturo Vidal’s Chile provide a not so huge shock?

Key men

Brazil: Neymar

Chile: Arturo Vidal

Colombia vs. Uruguay – Saturday, 28 June, 4 p.m. ET, Rio de Janerio

Another all-South American clash awaits on Saturday as Colombia and Uruguay clash at the Maracana. Colombia have been one of the stories of the tournament so far as they banged home nine goals in the group stage and won all three games to set up this tie. Their young attacking duo of James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez have torn teams apart. As for Uruguay, they narrowly beat Italy and England to advance but are now without star man Luis Suarez for the rest of the tournament after he bit Giorgio Chiellini. These two are familiar foes, with Uruguay winning 18 of the 38 games they’ve played.

Key men

Colombia: James Rodriguez

Uruguay: Diego Godin

source: AP
Ochoa will have to carry Mexico, once again, when El Tri takes on the Dutch.

Netherlands vs. Mexico – Sunday, 29 June, 12 p.m. ET, Fortaleza

This one is a really intriguing match up as free-flowing Holland have swept aside Spain, Chile and Australia thus far. Mexico’s stubborn defense led by inspired goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will provide a really tough test for RVP, Arjen Robben and co. Can the attack-minded Dutch break down the stubborn Mexican resistance?

Key men

Netherlands: Robin van Persie

Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa

Costa Rica vs. Greece – Sunday, 29 June, 4 p.m. ET, Recife

This is not a match many had lined up for the last 16, as both teams qualified for the knockout stages as huge shocks. Costa Rica were phenomenal in qualifying as they beat Italy and Uruguay on their way to winning Group D. As for Greece, a last minute PK vs. the Ivory Coast saw them advance in dramatic fashion but it’s hardly been vintage stuff from the Europeans. Both teams will be relying on their defenses to guide them through.

Key men

Costa Rica: Joel Campbell

Greece: Giorgios Samaras

France vs. Nigeria – Monday, 30 June, 12 p.m. ET, Brasilia

The French have looked imperious thus far, banging in goals for fun and looking incredibly solid under Didier Dechamps. The last two teams to win both of their opening group games by three goal margins have gone on to win the trophy. A good omen? as for Nigeria, they are just happy to be in the last 16 after narrowly beating Bosnia. They gave Argentina a run for their money and if star ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama is on form, France could struggle.

Key men

France: Karem Benzema

Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama

source: AP
Messi is tearing teams apart at this World Cup. Next up: Switzerland.

Germany vs. Algeria – Monday, 30 June, 4 p.m. ET, Porto Alegre

The Germans are looking like the same old ruthless machine at this World Cup as they coasted out of the Group of Death. Thomas Muller is on fire with four goals so far and the Bayern Munich man now has nine goals in nine World Cup games. Algeria have beaten Germany on both of their previous World Cup meetings, but the African side will be up against it as Die Mannschaft aim to go deep in Brazil.

Key men

Germany: Thomas Muller

Algeria: Islam Slimani

Argentina vs. Switzerland – Tuesday, 1 July, 12 p.m. ET, Sa0 Paulo

The Argentine’s will fancy their chances here, as Messi is the tournament’s leading scorer with four and it finally seems like he’s going to lead them all the way to a World Cup title. That said, Switzerland blow so hot and cold that you don’t know what you’re going to get. They demolished Honduras 3-0 in their final group game but were hammered 5-2 by France in a topsy-turvy game. This game is all about one man and if the Swiss can stop him. I think not. Messi will win this for Argentina.

Key men

Argentina: Lionel Messi

Switzerland: Xherdan Shaqiri

Belgium vs. USA – Tuesday, 1 July, 4 p.m. ET, Salvador

Belgium won all three group games. 2-1. 1-0. 1-0. They are tight at the back and clinical going forward but fail to create many chances… Sound familiar? The U.S. and the Belgians are extremely similar, have played twice recently in friendlies which reuslted in Belgian victories but this could go all the way to penalty kicks. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will likely have to sit back and defend for most of this one, as the form of ‘keeper Tim Howard is key. Can the stubborn American defense stop the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard and co.?

Key men

Belgium: Eden Hazard

USA: Tim Howard

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Manchester City is panicking

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Manchester City fell to Manchester United 2-1 in Saturday’s derby, and one thing was blatantly obvious above all others.

Pep Guardiola‘s side has begun to panic, and there may not be a way back from that headspace this season.

Down 2-0 to the Red Devils at home, Guardiola grabbed the big red metaphoric button, opened the plastic cover, and set off all the alarm bells at The Etihad. At the end of the 90 minutes, Manchester City delivered 47 crosses, completing just seven of them. They forced Manchester United to make 40 clearances in the penalty area, and the Red Devils were up to the task, only conceding on a corner that resulted in a bullet header by Nicolas Otamendi, who was afforded the chance at an attacking move thanks to the dead ball set-piece.

This isn’t a terribly new thing for Man City, but it has reached troubling levels. City – a squad with spectacular dribblers like Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling, plus world-class passers like Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva – leads the English top flight with 29 crosses per game, six more than any other team. Some of that is down to their gargantuan possessional advantage that lends itself to more deliveries of all kinds into the box, but that number is beyond reasonable explanation.

The trend has cropped up in big games over the past month or two, and it has not been helpful. Against Liverpool, Man City delivered 32 crosses, of which just five found its mark. In the Champions League disappointment against Shakhtar Donetsk, they delivered 29 crosses officially, but the strategy was far beyond that, forcing Shakhtar into 34 clearances. Against Wolves in the 2-0 defeat, they blasted 36 crosses into the area in a game that was scoreless until the final 10 minutes.  Panic.

A deeper dive is even more troubling. Even with all those crosses flying into the opposition box – again, attempting 26% per game more than any other Premier League side – they have just one player among the top 20 in accurate crosses. Kevin de Bruyne leads the Premier League with 45 total completed crosses this season, but even he has done so at just a 28% clip, which is nothing more than bang-on average. The rest of the list is completely devoid of any Man City players, forced to drop all the way to 40th in the league where Angelino, Olkesandr Zinchenko, and Ilkay Gundogan all sit with eight at a combined 29% success rate.

Clearly, strategy does not fit Man City’s strengths – the squad, as mentioned previously, is full of passers, dribblers, and general movers of the ball. They are not a crossing team. They are a spectacular passing team, with de Bruyne leading the league in key passes plus Sterling, Silva and Mahrez all in the Premier League top 20. Man City has six players in the top 10 in accurate final third passes. Yet here they are, blasting crosses into the box.

Pep Guardiola has talked repeatedly about how Manchester City is “still not ready” to win the Champions League, and yet it feels like instead the window may have closed. The team that won back-to-back Premier League titles in record-setting fashion may be in decline.

Injuries have no doubt had an effect. Leroy Sane’s knee injury has proven a much bigger absence than expected, while goal machine Sergio Aguero now finds himself on the sideline. As a result, Guardiola has leaned heavily on de Bruyne, a dangerous prospect given the Belgian’s own recent injury history.

Determining a fix is more complex than asking City to “go back to what they do best,” but any remedy certainly starts there. The problems are also not deep-rooted, as Manchester City still leads the league with 44 goals scored through 16 games, and a 45.89 xG proves that number is not a fluke. Still, the baffling tweak up front has left the team begging for goals when it needs them the most, unable to provide the killer instinct that flowed through the veins of the recent title teams.

Reports: Mourinho looking into Fellaini, Dzeko signings

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People joked when Jose Mourinho was hired at Tottenham Hotspur. “Just wait until he goes after Marouane Fellaini” they said.

If only they knew.

According to a report by Belgian publication DH, Mourinho is seriously considering a January swoop to bring Fellaini back to the Premier League, wishing for a player of his body and skill profile in his squad. Fellaini was initially a David Moyes signing at Manchester United in 2013, but became a Mourinho favorite thanks to his aerial presence in midfield and his ability to play up front in a pinch.

Fellaini is currently playing for Chinese club Shandong Luneng, having scored seven goals and assisted four more in 22 Chinese Super League matches this season while playing mostly a center-mid role. The club finished fifth in the league table, with the season just coming to a conclusion on December 1. Luneng also played in the Chinese League Cup final, falling to Shanghai Shenhua 3-0.

The Belgian’s popularity at Manchester United never reached the levels of other fan favorites, and he was often seen as symbolic of the club’s struggles to find top-level players. Still, Mourinho persisted with a player he clearly favored, with Fellaini eventually making 89 appearances across all competitions under his Portuguese boss.

Reports also indicate that Mourinho is eyeing Roma striker Edin Dzeko as a January option. The Italian club is currently fifth in the Serie A table, in a tight battle for a top four spot. Still, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international has a contract that runs through the summer of 2022, meaning the club could look to cash in on a player who will be 36 years old at the expiry of his current deal. Dzeko has declined somewhat, but still proves a goal threat, with six scores in 15 league matches this campaign plus another two in Europa League action.

Newcastle win dampened by Saint-Maximin injury

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Steve Bruce has seen Newcastle up to 10th in the table after topping Southampton 2-1, but the news wasn’t all good at St. James Park after the victory.

The Magpies boss confirmed that Allan Saint-Maximin  could be out “for weeks” after pulling up deep into stoppage time, coming off in the 96th minute after all three Newcastle substitutes had been used.

Bruce partly blamed himself for the injury, claiming he nearly rested the Frenchman for the match. “I nearly left him out today,” Bruce said after the game, “and, now, I wish I had done because he could be out for weeks. I’m disappointed with myself. We don’t know how serious it is. I kick myself if he is out for a long time. The way he pulled up – let’s hope it’s not too serious.”

The manager claims Saint-Maximin was “fatigued” but risked him anyways. He could have brought the 22-year-old off at some point during the second half, but with the game level until Federico Fernandez’s 87th minute winner, he chose to risk it further looking for a winner. Bruce used his third and final substitute in the 85th minute to haul off Miguel Almiron still two minutes before the eventual winning goal was scored. And it wasn’t just Steve Bruce who thought he could miss significant time.

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Saint-Maximin struggled with a muscle injuries earlier in the season, missing games against Norwich City, Watford, and Liverpool while getting treatment. Since returning in full in early October, Saint-Maximin has played in every Premier League game for Newcastle, completing at least 80 minutes in eight of those nine games and finishing 90 minutes four times.

The injury is poorly timed with Newcastle set to begin a heavy set of fixtures. They take on Burnley next weekend before games against Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, and Leicester City all in an eleven-day span through the holiday season. Saint-Maximin is a critical player to have go down, with a 7.07 WhoScored rating, ranking third on the team in that metric. He has completed 4.5 dribbles a game this season, which ranks second in the Premier League behind Wilfried Zaha‘s 4.6 despite having played five fewer games and 550 fewer minutes.

Ciaran Clark also went down during the game, with the Newcastle defender hauled off at halftime after suffering a calf injury.

Wolves, Seagulls split spoils at the Amex

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Wolves failed in a bid to pull within three points of fourth place, drawing Brighton 2-2 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Diogo Jota scored twice in a 4-goal first half, with Neal Maupay and Davy Propper bagging goals for Brighton. The Seagulls remain 12th with 19 points.


Three things we learned

1. Wolves’ blink at Top Four chance: Wolves entered the day with a chance to close to within three points of fourth place Chelsea, and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men next face Spurs, Norwich City, Man City, and Liverpool. They needed three points here. Not for lack of effort, they couldn’t conjure the magic.

2. Jota calm in the finish: Jota scored his second and third Premier League goals of the season, joining his Europa League success to give him six. He added five assists in the UEL, and is averaging 2.5 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per contest.

 

3. Maupay paying off faith: The French center forward has blossoming into a steady Premier League contributor after his outlandish production in the Championship earned him a big money move to the Amex Stadium. His sixth goal in 16 matches now includes goals against Wolves, Spurs, Everton, and Arsenal.

Man of the Match: Jota.


Brighton had most of the ball for the first half hour, but could’ve solve the Wolves back line.

Jota put Wolves ahead via a clever 1-2 with Raul Jimenez to get behind the line, prodding home for 1-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The lead lasted all of six minutes, as Maupay and Propper struck two minutes apart.

Maupay’s was a fine finish of a long Dale Stephens assist, while Propper headed a Leandro Trossard cross past Rui Patricio in the 36th.

Propper then fell from grace with a miserable pass stolen by Jonny Otto, the wingback finding Jota for his second goal of the night.

Wolves thought VAR might give them a penalty for handball in the 62nd minute, to no avail.

It was Wolves’ turn to give away a huge chance, but Stephens curled the effort wide of the far post in the 72nd minute.